Solitude: Grace and Space to Create

Between the party animal and the recluse lies the writer.  Both ends of the socialization meter, of course, are extremes with the writer’s need for solitude somewhere left of center, tilting more rather than less towards the solitude end, while still retaining the need to emerge from the cave of self from time to time to socialize, to rejuvenate and to satisfy an equally important urge to observe the human carnival. When writers do not have enough of solitude, they lament its absence.

So it is that Virginia Woolf found that room of her own, that Robinson Jeffers built that stone house by the Pacific Ocean, that Thoreau went off to Walden Pond, and so many other writers have retreated to that studio over the garage to be alone with their thoughts and to write. The virtues of solitude are many. The anchorite’s spiritual quest often led into the desert where in isolation he not only experienced divinity but also his own soul. In seeking to be alone, a writer also desires to commune with his authentic self. By reaching into his thoughts and deepest beliefs, removed from the noise of the crowd, he dredges forth the truth of his experience and of his intuitive knowing. The writing issues from this wellspring.

Solitude is a beatitude, carrying none of the negative connotations of loneliness, depressive isolation or unhealthy self-absorption. Solitude is a state of reflection that results in peace, joy, and contentment.  The space where the writer retreats to create is merely the physical aspect of solitude; the spiritual side is the grace that solitude bestows, grace in the sense of a spiritual gift or favor whereby those wellsprings of inspiration can be tapped. Then the writing becomes a labor of love.

Each writer has to carve out the time and find that private space where the grace to write engulfs like a warm sea.  The longest I have been able to maintain this solitary writing state is a few hours. Then I must get up, walk around, do something else for a while.  The writing life does not demand all or nothing–just a slice of your life. Those who are faithful to that call to solitude will finish their novel, memoir, short story, or whatever book they have inside.  Solitude is so important to creativity that unless a writer is at home in that solitary space “the would-be writer” will not progress beyond “the wannabe.”

But it is not only artists or writers who need solitude. Time alone is essential to personal growth and development.  Everyday living assaults our minds, bombarding us with sounds. We cannot be alone with our thoughts in a waiting room without a television turned on. Our psychic well-being demands down-time from the surround-sound. Writers need a heavier dose. If you want to look more closely at how solitude benefits everyone, not just artists, read Solitude: A Return to Self by Anthony Storr.

Where and when do you find solitude?



4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Dale on June 7, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    Thank you for the reminder. Solitude is a treasure, one that I increasingly covet. Yet I understand that the lack of solitude currently available to me is a result of the choices I have made and the responsibilities I have undertaken. Therefore, I cherish it from afar and look forward to future days that may hold unfettered time like an empty bowl.


  2. I appreciate that right now your time is fettered by responsibilities–true for all of us to a greater or lesser extent. So in that respect maybe none of us have time that is completely unfettered. I have the luxury of more solitude now than I have ever had in my life. Yet with that has come the freedom to also dither time away. I am sure that even an half hour or hour of solitude in a busy day restores you and blesses you in many ways. I think of my mother, a very pious woman, who in old age used her solitude for daily devotional readings and prayer, saying she now had the time for prayer that she did not have when she was younger. She looked at it as her job, having worked in an office most of her life.


  3. Smart to end in a question that evokes replies. Well written. Makes me want to go back to my blog!


    • Thanks for the reply. I’d like to receive more. After blogging for several weeks, I understand now why someone would abandon it after a while. Borrowing a few lines from Emily Dickinson, whose memory I evoked when I started this blog:

      This is my letter to the World
      That never wrote to Me —

      Blogging feels sometimes like writing letters to yourself. I say get back to your blog and we can cross-pollinate comments to each other’s blog. By the way, there are blogs on how to get more comments to your blog. So far I have found the blog an impetus to write.


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